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Poster: light into ashes Date: Feb 1, 2012 2:33am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Rosemary

Rosemary is one of the simplest, shortest songs to appear on a Grateful Dead album. A graceful tune, accompanied by only a couple acoustic guitars, it tells the mysterious, atmospheric tale of a solitary lady in an ominous garden.
The actual narrative is left out, and we’re left with a few lines that allude to some unknown story. Rosemary herself is only indirectly described – “boots were of leather, a breath of cologne” – as she sits by her mirror and leaves her garden. She’s given the name of an herb that was long associated with mourning and remembrance, strewn on people’s graves, but was also a love charm worn at weddings. (Hunter very likely had these folkloric associations in mind when he wrote the song.)
The song has a wistful, lonesome setting, starting with one person “quite alone” and ending with an empty sealed garden where “no one may stay;” but nothing is explained. We’re left only with questions – is she waiting for someone? pining for a lover? in mourning? – that the song doesn’t answer.
Blair Jackson wrote that “lyrically, Rosemary feels almost fragmentary, as if it’s just a part of some larger song.” This was deliberate. As a song consciously written in ‘the folk tradition’ (though not, as far as I know, based on any particular song), ambiguity was key to Rosemary for its writers.
Garcia told Jackson in an ’88 interview, “I love it when a song is ambiguous... Hunter is able to leave just enough out… He actually writes more clearly than I let him; he explains things if I let him… Sometimes it doesn’t have to mean anything and it can still evoke a great something.” Jackson observed that Garcia would even “deliberately cut out verses of songs if they seem to be explaining things too much.”

Hunter told Jackson in ’88, “Jerry favors a certain type of folk song. He loves the mournful death-connected ballad, the Child Ballad stuff. This is a venerable source which has always spoken to him, and to me as well, which is one reason we got together writing songs – because of that haunting feel certain traditional songs have… I’m generally deep-sea diving in imagery and getting things that sometimes, as in folk music, you don’t know quite what it means, but it’s resonant. Like that line in that folk song, ‘ten thousand was drownded that never was born.’ It makes the hair stand up on your arms.”
In a 1991 interview with Garcia, Hunter brings up the same line: “You know, Jerry, you once said something to me about a lyric that really impressed you when you were young, and it impressed me the same way, and I almost feel that line is where we took off.” Garcia agrees: “That line really scared me. It’s from a tune called ‘The Mummer’s Song,’ that Jean Ritchie used to sing. It’s an a capella song with only two verses, and they’re nonsense insofar as that if they have any sense, it’s so deeply symbolic we don’t know what it’s actually about… Not knowing, though, is part of what makes it so evocative. The mystery is part of what makes it interesting to me.”
(Garcia was slightly off: the tune was Nottamun Town, which was sung in medieval English mummers’ plays.) (the story of Nottamun Town)
“Sat down on a hard hot cold frozen stone
Ten thousand stood round me and yet I’s alone
Took my hat in my hand for to keep my head warm
Ten thousand got drownded that never was born.”
Hunter & Garcia brought this sensibility to Rosemary: what Hunter called “the notion of evocativeness,” or Garcia, “the lack of specificness, the power of the almost-expressed. It seemed to speak at some level other than the most obvious one, and it was more moving for that reason., since you don’t know what it’s about.”
Garcia talked about the Lord Randall ballad as an instance: “The versions that made it to Appalachia were two hundred years after the fact for those English ballads – they got sung from father to son or mother to daughter so much that eventually nobody remembered who Lord Randall was, but they did remember the guy’s head rolling down the stairs in that verse. (Hunter added, “You’ve got all those incredibly evocative lines like ‘black eel and black broth, mother’ and ‘I fain would lie doon.’”) You get these little hunks of good stuff and you don’t need all 29 verses to get the feeling of it. You only get three or four verses, but they’re so rich in weirdness because they’re the ones that made enough of an impression that they could last…through the generations.”

Though it has the timeless feel common to many of Hunter’s songs, Rosemary has a particularly medieval tone. The lyrics seem reminiscent of ancient Arthurian ballads: “On the wall of the garden, a legend did say, ‘No one may come here, since no one may stay.’” (The acoustic setting and medieval-inspired lyrics are also shared by Mountains of the Moon, which is kind of a sister song to Rosemary.)

The annotated GD lyrics site speculates on some of the literary influences that may have been floating around Hunter’s head:
The lady in her private walled garden is a staple of medieval literature, for instance in the famous Romance of the Rose and many of Chaucer’s poems:
One historical reference is Rosamund, the mistress of Henry II in the 12th century, who became famous in English romance and folklore. The story goes that Henry hid her in a bower garden surrounded by a forest labyrinth, so only he could find the way in; but his jealous queen Eleanor used a thread to discover the path, and poisoned Rosamund. This is one old ballad on the subject:
One possible inspiration for Rosemary is Hawthorne’s story “Rappaccini’s Daugher,” about an alluring but toxic young lady in a garden of poisonous plants: “All around her the garden grew scarlet and purple and crimson and blue.”
(This story was also featured in a Vincent Price movie, Twice-Told Tales, in 1963.)
Another parallel is Tennyson’s poem “Lady of Shalott,” about a lady who pines alone in her walled isle while gazing in a mirror, and comes to a solitary end: “Her mirror was a window, she sat quite alone.”
(Hunter in the 1991 interview even mentions that the British folk tradition he admires “reaches its culmination with Alfred Lord Tennyson, things like Morte d’Arthur. Certainly I liked that sort of writing.”)
There may also be an echo of Shelley’s poem “The Sensitive Plant,” about a lady who tends a garden – when she dies, the garden dies with her: “She came and she went and at last went away; the garden was sealed when the flowers decayed.”
And so on. There are many such literary pieces about women in gardens that could be found; but which exactly Hunter might have been thinking of, is uncertain. It’s possible he had particular old folk songs in mind, though in general Hunter seemed to take inspiration more from poetry and literature than from older songs.
(Oddly enough, he had recently written another song with a prominent garden: “Saint Stephen with a rose, in and out of the garden he goes.” But Hunter’s later songs would tend to leave English gardens for more American themes.)

How Hunter & Garcia came to write Rosemary is a story in itself – the song came right at a turning-point in the Dead’s music, as they shifted from writing weird acid-rock tunes to more straightforward, acoustic-based, traditional-flavored songs.
The Dead’s songwriting patterns changed in mid-1968. Up til then, most songs had been written by the whole band, with each person pitching in – many of their best songs came out of band jams. Anthem of the Sun is a good example of a true Dead collaboration, with six different songwriters contributing to the songs. Lesh and Garcia both felt equally free to work with Hunter’s lyrics, with Lesh arranging Clementine and the Eleven – and the first Hunter song the band did, Alligator, was also co-written by Pigpen.
Suddenly, once the Anthem album was finished in spring 1968, the band’s compositions narrowed drastically. Several of the bandmembers quit writing songs: each for their own reasons, neither Lesh, Weir nor Pigpen would write another song until 1970.
Into the breach stepped Robert Hunter. The band had enthusiastically accepted some lyrics he’d mailed from New Mexico back in ’67 (Alligator and China Cat) and invited him to join them as songwriter, since they felt their own lyrics were lacking. He had been writing an occasional song for them (Dark Star and Clementine) since arriving in summer ’67. St Stephen, in a way, was the last song from this initial Hunter phase – it was a song he had been working on in New Mexico and was apparently one of the ones he’d mailed in spring ’67, though Garcia and Lesh didn’t get around to working up an arrangement until spring ’68.

Not all of Hunter’s efforts were accepted. (Hunter: “I wrote endlessly.” Garcia: “He never stopped… The amount we set was nothing compared to the amount we didn’t set.”) In the 1991 Hunter/Garcia interview, he mentions the ‘Eagle Mall’ suite that he intended the Dead to perform: “I started writing that thing when we were down recording Anthem of the Sun. It was more a personal project – I had eyes for the band doing it, but then I was informed by [Garcia], ‘Listen, basically we’re a dance band and there’s no way in the world people will be able to dance to this sort of thing.’” (Or, as he puts it in the Box of Rain book, “It was too ambitious a lyric project for practical consideration.”)
Garcia recalled, “We did actually take a few cracks at trying to set some of it, but I couldn’t come up with anything that didn’t sound very hackneyed.” Hunter thought, “It almost had to have an old English flavor, and that wasn’t really where the Grateful Dead was going then.” Garcia suggested, “What we need is the New York Pro Musica to make this sound the way it’s supposed to go, with the bells and recorders and viola da gambas…” (The Pro Musica group performed medieval and Renaissance music.)

Though the Dead never did perform that suite, 1968 saw a shift in direction in which the “old English flavor” became exactly the mood Garcia was looking for. He admitted in ’91, “Mountains of the Moon had a little bit of the ‘Eagle Mall’ thing.” Once the band’s other songwriters fell silent, Garcia took charge of the Dead’s compositions, and he and Hunter started spinning out more antique-styled songs. These two had spent much of the early sixties seeking out forgotten folk songs, and those old traditions were now coming back up in their own songwriting.
Hunter said later that some of his early songs (like Dupree’s Diamond Blues) were “studied efforts to continue the oral tradition.” Garcia told Jackson in ’89, “Hunter and I always had this thing where we liked to muddy the folk tradition by adding our own versions of songs to the tradition… Dupree’s Diamond Blues is one of those. It’s the thing of taking a well-founded tradition and putting in something that’s totally looped.” Though the Dead would become more known for their takes on American folk (with Dupree’s being their starting-point), Rosemary and Mountains of the Moon seem to be deliberately patterned on older English folk traditions – a vein the Dead would not often return to.
Perhaps since Garcia & Hunter were working up most of the songs themselves at home, particularly at the end of the year, Aoxomoxoa featured more acoustic-based songs than before, some of them downright acid-folkish. Though the recordings didn’t necessarily include “bells and recorders and violas,” the Dead did throw in glockenspiels, choirs, or harpsichords as needed. Garcia & Hunter felt free to indulge themselves in epics like What’s Become of the Baby – as Garcia said in 1971, “Hunter and I were being more or less obscure, and there are lots of levels on the verbal plane in terms of the lyrics being far out – too far out, really, for most people.”

The songs recorded for Aoxomoxoa, in the order they appeared:
China Cat Sunflower – first played January ’68, but left off the Anthem album, and considerably overhauled for Aoxomoxoa.
Clementine – also debuted January ’68 and recorded for Aoxomoxoa, but abandoned.
St Stephen – probably composed in May ‘68; our first live tape is from June.
What’s Become of the Baby – improbably, one of the first songs the band tackled once they started Aoxomoxoa in September.
Cosmic Charlie – another of the first-recorded album songs, and played at a Hartbeats show on Oct 8.
Barbed Wire Whipping Party – an experiment done during the October recording sessions, but rejected.
Rosemary – we don’t know when this was recorded, but the song was finished by late November.
Mountains of the Moon – live debut Dec 20.
Dupree’s Diamond Blues & Doin’ That Rag – live debuts Jan 24 ’69.

Garcia said in his 1971 Rolling Stone interview that many of the Aoxomoxoa songs were “new tunes that I had written, that I hadn’t really bothered to teach anyone in the band, and I was trying to record them from the ground up and everyone was coming in and doing overdubs… We went about it in a very fragmentary way; we didn’t go about it as a group at all.”
One thing the Aoxomoxoa outtakes tape reveals is that for many tracks, Garcia would go in with just one drummer and record a rhythm track, and the rest of the band would overdub themselves later. Tom Constanten wrote about the process for Skeleton Key: “It was decided to record [the tracks] separately, About half a dozen tracks were dedicated to the drums, and at least two to the bass. Next, the guitars, and then my keyboard. Then came whatever trimmings – glockenspiel, cowbell, whatever – we’d thought of… Finally the vocal tracks were added.”
What’s Become of the Baby is another track that, instrumentally speaking, started out as just Garcia and acoustic guitar – though it was then layered over with sound effects. (The guitar-only version on the outtakes tape is much simpler than the weird album version, though identical song-wise.) Mountains of the Moon was also relatively easy, as Constanten recalled: “Jerry, Bob, Phil and I recorded the basic tracks in the same room at the same time.” (They couldn’t help adding a choir later, though Garcia stripped it off again in the ’71 remix.)
But Rosemary was kept simple: the Dead did not record a full band version that we know of. Garcia’s solo effort was just put straight on the album as it was.

Garcia recorded Rosemary as a four-track demo by himself, and brought it finished to the band. It seems he only used three tracks, two guitars and a vocal. (Though he unfortunately applied an electronic effect to his voice, running it through a Leslie organ cabinet, which makes him sound like a singing lamb.) One guitar plucks the chords, and the other provides a vaguely Spanish-sounding accompaniment. Musically, Garcia enhances the desolate air of the lyrics by pausing in-between each verse, then repeating the chords in cyclical fashion.

The recording was simple enough that Garcia made few changes to Rosemary when remixing the album in 1971. He basically made it more ‘straight’ – the two guitars are on each side while the voice is in the middle. On the original album, each track floated randomly around the stereo channels, and the voice was much lower in the mix, somewhat buried beneath the guitars (making the words even harder to decipher). The original mix is also about five seconds longer, as the guitars slowly wind out to a concluding chord at the end – as with most of the tracks on the album, Garcia faded a bit early in the remix.
Rosemary on the Aoxomoxoa outtakes tape is, of course, the exact same track, just in mono. It fades out a little too early, too. (However, you can actually hear the first line, “Boots were of leather.” This doesn’t actually appear on the album track, as Garcia’s voice fades in on “leather”! He sings it on the one live version, though.)

Rosemary was long thought never to have been played live, until a stash of December ‘68 live tapes turned up in 1999. One of these was a loose, tripped-out show at Bellarmine College in Louisville, KY, from December 7. It was the last show of a midwest tour, and the Dead may have been a little tired after playing in Philadelphia the previous night - they also faced some equipment problems early in the set, abandoning the Eleven.
After a meandering New Potato, Weir announces a little break; and when they return, it’s with just one drummer. (Garcia explains a little later on that “one of our drummers broke down.”) They have no plan about what to play next, and Garcia abruptly starts playing Rosemary, perhaps to fill up a long wait. (Bear stopped taping in the break, so the recording cuts back in during the opening notes.)
It’s a quiet, delicate performance – unfortunately, the tapesource is a mono cassette recording which sounds particularly hissy at this point. Nonetheless, the unique live Rosemary is done somewhat differently than the album track – for one, Lesh plays along with Garcia, so we get to hear what the bass line for Rosemary would have sounded like. Weir also seems to join in unobtrusively by the end, filling out Garcia’s guitar part. (This makes me think they may have attempted a fuller band version in the studio prior to this. Then again, they may have been catching the song on the fly – Garcia himself sounds a little shaky.) Garcia sings the same verses as on the album (though he slightly forgets the line, “The garden was sealed when the flowers decayed”), but the song is extended by a minute with a longer instrumental ending. Very impromptu and fragile, but nicely done! Then it’s time for some tuning…

Unless another version is hiding in an unknown live show in the Vault, that’s the last we hear of Rosemary. A couple weeks later on December 20, Mountains of the Moon shows up live for the first time – after the Dead abandon another Eleven, Garcia actually pulls out his acoustic to play it (possibly for the first time in a Dead show), and is only accompanied by a few notes from Constanten. Since Garcia particularly liked that song, Mountains became a regular feature of Dead shows in early 1969, but Rosemary was left behind.
“She came and she went and at last went away…”

Someone at Warner Bros must have liked Rosemary, though, for it later appeared on the 1974 best-of compilation Skeletons From the Closet.

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Poster: AltheaRose Date: Feb 1, 2012 5:37am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

Thanks LiA. I love Rosemary. I had no idea about the '68 recording; that's a neat little fragment ... just such a haunting song.

And when I think of it, how many other songs have a woman as a protagonist? Not in the sense of being seen by a guy whose presence is implied (Annie in the roses, Rose being urged to ramble on, etc), but actually just a picture of a woman. I actually can't think of any. Though that may be just my swiss cheese brain.

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Poster: micah6vs8 Date: Feb 1, 2012 6:46am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

>my swiss cheese brain.

Hey, that's my line. I have a CR too. That will be a nickel please or Advocate Sanad Satyal from the Intellectual Property Protection Bureau (P.) Ltd will be calling. (Please tip his boy when he comes to collect.)

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Poster: AltheaRose Date: Feb 1, 2012 7:29am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

No, I said it first. Oh wait. I can't remember.

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Poster: ringolevio Date: Feb 1, 2012 8:47am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

Ah! I was going to write that the ten thousand drowned who aren't born are echoed in the ten thousand that the lady in Jackaroe is not afraid to see fall ... and then realized, this is also a song with a female protagonist (and not lurking in any walled garden, either).

thanks as always, LiA.

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Poster: AltheaRose Date: Feb 1, 2012 9:28pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

We have a winner! Both Stagger Lee and Jackaroe, I'd say.

I won't go for the lady in the fire in Terrapin, cuz it's not about her per se; she's just part of the whole vision. (IMO the POV in Terrapin isn't gendered, but still, the lady isn't the protagonist.)

Arguably Bird Song and Cassidy, though. Both can be seen as being about women from a non-gendered POV (well, one woman and one baby girl). At least I don't hear the POV as gendered; not like, say, Rose/Annie/Althea/the Sugar Mag and Scarlet Begonia girls/etc where the characters seem to be very clearly being seen by a guy.

Oh, and I always think of Oh Babe It Ain't No Lie as female, but I guess that's just cuz I associate it with Elizabeth Cotton.

Actually I don't think of Rosemary as being cloistered or locked in her garden; to me, it's a very inward-looking song, and the aloneness is more the solitariness of individual experience and transcendence.

This post was modified by AltheaRose on 2012-02-02 05:28:20

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Feb 1, 2012 10:41pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

What, you don't count those feminist odes, Loose Lucy or Money Money? :)

Actually, one possible contender is Sugaree. The song doesn't specify the gender of the singer, or of Sugaree, so it's gender-free. All sorts of interpretations are possible, as you can read here:
(Robert Hunter thought of Sugaree as a pimp, though, which takes care of that!)

You wrote -
"Actually I don't think of Rosemary as being cloistered or locked in her garden; to me, it's a very inward-looking song, and the aloneness is more the solitariness of individual experience and transcendence."
I don't really agree with that, but it's an interesting viewpoint. The song did not seem 'inward-looking' to me, or about the lady's experience at all: it keeps its distance.

Rosemary is such a terse song, it's impossible to interpret really. It's obvious she has freedom of movement, so she's certainly not stuck in the garden ("she came and she went and at last went away") but we don't know what she's doing there or where she goes. But death and/or abandonment is, I think, implied by the downbeat ending: the garden sealed, the flowers decay, a sign put up saying "no one may come here."

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Poster: AltheaRose Date: Feb 2, 2012 1:14am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

I think of Sugaree as a woman, although I know Robert Hunter apparently had a different interpretation. I don't mind it; he can think what he wants :-)

OK, on Rosemary ... I honestly feel the meaning is pretty clear. Well, to me, anyway. I look at it this way: Who were these songs written for? I mean, what circumstances of consciousness were the hearers (and the band) frequently in when the songs were heard? I don't think that's tangential to the meaning at all.

With that in mind, here are some thoughts on the lyrics of Rosemary (which I hope no one takes in a trivial or boringly Deadhead-stereotype way):

- A mirror (the image of oneself) is also a window (that you look out through). Looking out is also reflecting in. And that's necessarly alone.
- All around, a fantastical and colorful garden grows. Uh-huh.
- She came, she went (traveled), she went away. Ego went away? Or the traveling was finished? Either way works.
- The magical garden can no longer be entered after a time; the fantastical flowers that grew all around her decay, or vanish, or are no longer reachable.
- No one may stay. (True enough. Unless you're the estimated prophet, I guess.)

Boots were of leather
A breath of cologne
Her mirror was a window
She sat quite alone

All around her
the garden grew
scarlet and purple
and crimson and blue

She came and she went
and at last went away
The garden was sealed
when the flowers decayed

On the wall of the garden
a legend did say:
No one may come here
since no one may stay

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Feb 2, 2012 2:27am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

What's this? Rosemary is....gasp....a drug song? Like a half-dozen other songs on that album? No way! :)

It's funny how many ways a song can be heard - Hunter's songs are not always too clear. The Annotated GD Lyrics site has essays explaining very seriously how Aoxomoxoa is really a series of songs about the life cycle and the loss of childhood...

I always took Sugaree to be a man, actually, sung to by a woman...but in the situation of the song, it doesn't seem to matter.

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Poster: Lou Davenport Date: Feb 2, 2012 3:37pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

A song that Jerry sings can be understood as narrated by a woman? If so, I'm saying It Must Have Been the Roses is narrated by Annie's female lover.

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Poster: AltheaRose Date: Feb 2, 2012 2:59am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

Yeah, well, put that way it sounds really juvenile and dated and all ... there ought to be another phrase. "Expanded consciousness" song or something. "Owsleyesque?" "White Rabbitudinal?" How about "psychonautically charged"? That at least sounds semi-serious.

I may be wrong, but I'm betting that aspect is underanalyzed (or even avoided like some plaguey elephant in the room). After all, making note of the literary or folk-musical references is a way of underscoring the music's complexity and sophistication, but there's no easy way to talk about Those Other Aspects without risking sounding a bit like Beavis and Butthead. And also, of course, giving an opening to Dead bashers.

And yeah, the openness to interpretation (and refusal to be pinned down to a single interpretation) is so key to Hunter's genius.

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Poster: William Tell Date: Feb 2, 2012 10:41am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary: LiA & Rose

WARNING: no rant, no criticism, no attack intended by what follows...just good old literary critique. Medication related as well...


We've been down this path before, together in fact (the three of us, + many others), and you two know my "simple is best" rule regarding Hunter, so just thought I'd chime in to share my (old hat) take...

As I've said many times, I think Hunter is an excellent writer, but a very simple (elegant, not a knock on his style!) one. I think that when he wants to convey ideas, content--meaning, he does so in a beautiful and straight forward fashion.

IE, the songs like UJB, Ripple, BDPal, are all VERY straight forward and this is his "style # 1".

When he writes other songs, he is using his words much more simplistically than these many interpretations require: he is literally "writing without intention" and the words, as constructed, are the substance of the thing...nothing more, nothing less. FWIW, he writes beautifully in this format. Style # 2.

There are many writers that do this, but with respect to classic examples like CCS, by Hunter, it is merely the wonderful way in which the words are strung together that was intentional, at the time, rather than all of the gibberish that people infer from them at a later date. Hunter, like all good writers, encourages this--and that IS the beauty of art (that it allows for this). But, I don't put much stock in the "meaning" provided by subsequent interpreters, if you follow.

Thus, my point is not to invalidate ANY interpretation of ANY Hunter song, of either of these styles, BUT to simply (once more) emphasis that his two styles, to me, are very transparent: one conveys instant meaning/inference/innuendo because, duh, he wants it to; the other is vague and ambiguous because there is really nothing there (or everything if you want to view it that way) in that we could more easily explain WHY he wrote the words the way he did in those songs by "it sounded good". Period.

Sorry, didn't mean this to sound/read so pedantic, but I think it is over-looked how widespread this "non-sensical" writing style was for Hunter's generation (and again, that does NOT mean any less artistic or beautiful or accomplished).

My bottom line is that when Hunter wanted to convey "meaning", he did so very straightforwardly, and in the other instances, he is just juxtaposing words, phrases, etc, because in so doing, they are appealing. Finally, he has in some interviews more or less said this is what he does when writing; but, of course, it's more fun to allow the projections, interpretations, etc. developed by the listerners...

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Feb 2, 2012 12:46pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary: LiA & Rose

Interesting post.
Though an english-major myself, I actually try to stay away from any interpretation of the lyrics. (Here with Rosemary, I just listed some possible literary antecedents that Hunter may, or may not, have had in mind.)
I agree that some of his lyrics are just nonsense (in the Lewis Carroll sense); but many of the lines that seem simple turn out to be not so simple. Often Hunter did have a meaning in mind that kind of got boiled away in the writing; sometimes he prefers to express himself obscurely, to be more poetic.

This is an essay Hunter wrote about finding meaning in his lyrics, where he 'deconstructs' Franklin's Tower -
(He wrote it in response to a rather academic essay - - that suggested the Dead's lyrics mostly had no meaning at all.)

These are a few other related essays to consider - (nonsense in Hunter's lyrics) (ambiguity in Hunter's lyrics) (nursery rhymes in Dead songs) (a few notes on the Aoxomoxoa song cycle) (an incomplete index of motifs in the Dead's lyrics; fun to browse)

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Poster: AltheaRose Date: Feb 2, 2012 6:55pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary: LiA & Rose

Well, yeah, to settle on anything as the "truest" interpretation is definitely limiting -- Hunter showed that brilliantly in his Franklin's essay! (Which was exactly his point, of course.)

And of course I'm not disagreeing with pointing out possible literary antecedents. Those can be (and are) obviously present even in the purest "trip" songs. (Which anyway wouldn't be terribly good "trip" songs if they didn't have a multiplicity of meanings beyond "whoa, look at those colors.")

The Annotated GD site is always interesting; a lot of what people have found seems far-fetched, IMO, if they're taken as "exact one-to-one influence," but Hunter clearly always read voluminously and there are all kinds of ways for what a writer has read to seep into their work, from conscious parallels and references to vague resonance that appears because, as Hunter has said, they just sound "appealing." (Which is another way of being vague on his part, but vague can be truest.) There have been many times when I've read a reference there and vowed to go back to the poem referenced and read the original ... and of course don't follow through! (Ditto with your essays and references, LiA; I'm always planning to go back and spend some good time reading all the links, etc. You should see my "favorites" list, LOL. I'm so impressed you find the time and focus to do all the work you do. It's always amazing, and I learn so much.)

Btw, I love it that the (long-ago) English major contributes a thoroughly researched and extensive essay full of literary references; the Art History major points out something that's been overlooked; and the Biology major goes, "Oh c'mon, the great thing about Hunter is he's STRAIGHTFORWARD, but a bunch of it is just nonsense!" Gee Uncle John, what was your major? :-)

This post was modified by AltheaRose on 2012-02-03 02:55:53

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Feb 2, 2012 7:24pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary: LiA & Rose

I think a lot of the suggestions on the Annotated GD site are nonsense, actually! But, it's all in good fun...
What's apparent is that Hunter was always immersed in poetry, particularly English, and that stuff influenced & seeped into his writing quite a bit; especially since he was often trying to write a traditional poem as much as a song.

Glad you find my essays useful. (It's pretty obvious I wasn't a music major!)
I'm always keenly aware, though, of how little time & focus I have for writing them, and there's SO much more that should've been written by now - my head's full of the posts to come, which will take months to get to. Other bloggers are much more diligent & productive...

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Poster: William Tell Date: Feb 3, 2012 6:23am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary: LiA & Rose

Bingo! [bio major biz; though, zoology degrees actually abound on the wall, or in the drawer, or wherever the wife puts such things...]


And, I am so glad you two took it in the right spirit; FWIW, it wasn't really directed at EITHER you or LiA, as neither of you really do the kind of thing I was labeling "gibberish".

It's the other folks I've met over the yrs, or some here, that go on and on, and on, with interpretations (like with CCS), that really seem entirely beside the "point" (IMHO).

Thx for that...

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Poster: unclejohn52 Date: Feb 2, 2012 11:17am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary: LiA & Rose

possibly your most cogent post, ever. ;)

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Feb 2, 2012 12:26pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

Perhaps you're right that this aspect is underanalyzed or avoided.
Another way to see it is that the 'psychedelic' aspect of early Dead lyrics is limiting because it's so omnipresent - practically everything the Dead wrote in '67/68 can be taken as a 'trip' song. And were no doubt written as such.
Of course, this was a band dedicated to getting their audiences high in every way... But while Hunter probably intended many of his lyrics to be taken that way, to settle on that as the truest interpretation strikes me as a narrow approach, reading a song like cops looking for drug clues! I take the songs as being more like prisms, that cast different colors when you turn them different ways...

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Poster: vapors Date: Feb 2, 2012 2:32pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

"I take the songs as being more like prisms, that cast different colors when you turn them different ways..."

Beautifully stated. and thanks once again for sharing your research and insights with us.

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Poster: unclejohn52 Date: Feb 1, 2012 6:00am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

Stagger Lee of course... and maybe that lady appearing in the fire...

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Poster: ringolevio Date: Feb 2, 2012 5:09am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

Just got a chance to listen to this, thanks again. What a find!
I also love Mountains of the Moon. I get that fol de rol de riddle thing stuck in my head.

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Poster: Lou Davenport Date: Feb 1, 2012 6:57pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

Wow--great piece! Did you have most of this in the can already and then added the bit about the Bellarmine College show after our exchange?

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Poster: light into ashes Date: Feb 1, 2012 10:28pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

Actually, the whole thing was written after our Bellarmine exchange, but I'd planned it for some time before that. The intent was to write something short, and Rosemary fit the bill...

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Poster: Lou Davenport Date: Feb 2, 2012 3:27pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

Yes, short--like a haiku or sonnet. You continually astonish me.

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Poster: august_wst Date: Feb 1, 2012 7:55am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

Good God, the post is 12 times longer than the song!

... no offense

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Poster: MR.SUNSHINE Date: Aug 23, 2013 10:48pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: Rosemary

its a beautiful song that I always thought was kind of sad. the girl was trying to escape through the mirror(referring to the mirror as a window, meaning she is using the mirror as a window and staring into it), while not being able to appreciate the beauty around her(the various colors and flower of the beautiful garden) she instead is focused on how life will eventually come to an end. Recently these questions of life and death have been rolling around my brain, and I think the message is that death is also a beautiful part of life. And also that death is only one PART of life, so that means that there is so much more. (many PARTS). Its easy to become saddened by the concept that it will all end someday, yet this is just a distracting thought that keeps you from living.